I’m new to the bread baking world, it requires patience. Something I lack but am trying to work on. With everything being ready at the drop of a hat (or click of a button) it’s easy to forget that things take time. I want to step back and enjoy the process of hard work again, a labour of love if you will. And as my Dad always says “If you’re going to do a job, do it right” – right? Using a bread machine takes all the fun out of the job so get stuck in and get flexing those bread-making muscles. I guess you could even tick that off as a bit of exercise, it only seems fair.
It’s also a great way to relieve stress. Kneading away ferociously at the dough, why not picture it being someone you detest? For me this time it’s Theresa May. The resemblance between the two is uncanny – sticky, lumpy and both require a good punch. But when that dough bakes, and the Theresa May features disappear, you are left with the perfect hunk of herby bread that you’ve been dreaming of.
When you knead the dough on the work surface, avoid using flour to stop the sticking. Instead spread a small amount of oil on the work surface and carry on. This will keep the bread silky smooth and as light as a light thing. You can eat your focaccia as a side to a delicious meal, as a starter with some dips or top the whole thing in cheese and meat and have it pizza-styley. Mine never made it to the table, it got ransacked in minutes of leaving the oven by lots of grabbing hands. So watch out for those kitchen lurkers.
- 2 heads of garlic
- A few sprigs of rosemary
- 500g strong white flour
- 1tbsp caster sugar
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
- 250 – 350ml cold water
- 7g sachet of fast-action yeast
- 2tbsp semolina
- Pre-heat your oven to 200°c/392°f/gas mark 6. Cover the garlic heads in olive oil, wrap in foil and roast in the oven for 25-35 minutes. The cloves should be soft and squishy when ready. Remove the garlic cloves from the skin and roughly chop.
- To a large bowl add the flour. On one side of the bowl add salt and on the other side add the yeast. Don’t let the two come into direct contact as salt kills the yeast. Stir the salty side in carefully then the yeasty side. Add the sugar and mix well.
- Finely chop ⅔ of the rosemary sprigs and add to the flour mix, along with the garlic. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil (2tbsp). Start mixing together with fingers while adding some of the water. Go steady, just enough to bring the mixture together.
- Once it’s started to come together tip it out onto a work surface. Slowly pour in the remaining water a bit at a time and continue mixing.
- Once a slightly sticky dough has been formed get kneading. Knead for 10-15 minutes, until stretchy and smooth. If needed use a small amount of oil on your hands or work surface to reduce sticking.
- Place in oiled large bowl, cover and put to the side. Room temperature is just fine. Leave for approximately an hour (or until doubled in size).
- Remove the dough from the bowl and start beating the crap out of it. Really get punching, you need to knock the air out before shaping.
- Oil a baking tray and sprinkle with 1tbsp of the semolina. Stretch the dough out to the shape and size of the tray and place it in. Push the dough to the corners of the tray. Leave to prove for another hour or so.
- Pre-heat the oven to 220°c/425°f/gas mark 7. Using your thumb, make indentations all over the focaccia. Drizzle olive oil over, filling those little wells up. Sprinkle on the remaining rosemary and semolina and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and drizzle with a bit more oil and sprinkling of salt… and there you have a badass little focaccia. Simple.